Monetary policy[ edit ] In a article,  educator and historian Henry Littlefield outlined an allegory in the book of the late 19th-century debate regarding monetary policy. According to this view, for instance, the Yellow Brick Road represents the gold standardand the silver slippers ruby in the film version represent the Silverite sixteen to one silver ratio dancing down the road. The City of Oz earns its name from the abbreviation of ounces "Oz" in which gold and silver are measured. The thesis achieved considerable popular interest and elaboration by many scholars in history, economics and other fields,  but that thesis has been challenged.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of America's favorite pieces of juvenile literature. Children like it because it is a good story, full of fun characters and exciting adventures. Adults--especially those of us in history and related fields--like it because we can read between L.
Frank Baum's lines and see various images of the United States at the turn of the century.
That has been true sincewhen American Quarterly published Henry M. Littlefield's "The Wizard of Oz: According to Littlefield, Baum, a reform-minded Democrat who supported William Jennings Bryan's pro-silver candidacy, wrote the book as a parable of the Populists, an allegory of their failed efforts to reform the nation in Richard Jensen, in a study of Midwestern politics and culture, devoted two pages to Baum's story.
He implicitly qualified Littlefield by pointing out that not all pro-Bryan silverites were Populists. But Jensen then proceeded to add two new points to the standard Littlefield interpretation, finding analogies for Toto and Oz itself: Dorothy's faithful dog represented the teetotaling Prohibitionists, an important part of the silverite coalition, and anyone familiar with the silverites' slogan "16 to 1"--that is, the ratio of sixteen ounces of silver to one ounce of gold--would have instantly recognized "Oz" as the abbreviation for "ounce.
Rockoff, who saw in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz "a sophisticated commentary on the political and economic debates of the Populist Era," discovered a surprising number of new analogies. The Deadly Poppy Field, where the Cowardly Lion fell asleep and could not move forward, was the anti-imperialism that threatened to make Bryan forget the main issue of silver note the Oriental connotation of poppies and opium.
Once in the Emerald Palace, Dorothy had to pass through seven halls and climb three flights of stairs; seven and three make seventy-three, which stands for the Crime of '73, the congressional act that eliminated the coinage of silver and that proved to all Populists the collusion between congress and bankers.
The enslavement of the yellow Winkies was "a not very well disguised reference to McKinley's decision to deny immediate independence to the Philippines" after the Spanish-American War.
The Wizard himself was Mark Hanna, McKinley's campaign manager, although Rockoff noted that "this is one of the few points at which the allegory does not work straightforwardly.
Clanton explained as had Jensen that not all pro-Bryan silverites were Populists. A number of reform Democrats shared the Populists' distrust of railroads and bankers,their support for inflation, and so forth, but the Democrats disagreed with the Populists' call for a strong and active government to solve those problems, and in fact they tended to see Populists as dangerous socialist radicals.
Clanton suggested that if the Wicked Witch of the East was the forces of industrial capitalism, then Baum's Wicked Witch of the West was Populism itself.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz "mirrored perfectly the middle-ground ideology that was fundamental among those who favored reform yet opposed Populism," wrote Clanton. Perhaps the best example was a widely-reprinted essay, first published in the Los Angeles Times inin which Michael A.
Genovese described The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as "the story of the sad collapse of Populism and the issues upon which the movement was based. But there was one notable and somewhat disturbing aspect of Genovese's piece: Littlefield's name was never mentioned.
The phrase "according to one scholar" never appeared. Less than a quarter century after his article appeared, Littlefield had entered the public domain. First, he produced an overwhelming number of correspondences, and others have added to the list. One would be hard pressed to find any character, setting, or event in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that does not have a "Populist parable" analogy.
Second, educators discovered Littlefield's usefulness in teaching Populism and related topics. This was the reason Littlefield, at the time a high school teacher, developed his analysis in the first place; the correspondences between Populism and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he wrote, "furnish a teaching mechanism which is guaranteed to reach any level of student.
Hence in the Utne Reader praised a newspaper article for "expos[ing] Oz as a parable on Populism," a movement that had been critical of "Eastern banks and railroads, which [Populists] charged with oppressing farmers and industrial workers. The best statement of this revisionist view is William R. Leach's two essays in a new edition of the book.
Baum's masterpiece was popular, Leach explained, "because it met--almost perfectly--the particular ethical and emotional needs of people living in a new urban, industrial society.
The Emerald City, with its prosperous homes and luxurious stores, resembled nothing as much as it did the "White City" of Chicago's Columbian Exposition ofwhich Baum had visited several times. Specifically, the book emphasized an aspect of theosophy that Norman Vincent Peale would later call "the power of positive thinking": Before he became a professional writer, Baum worked as a traveling salesman and owned a dry goods store.
Inhe founded The Show Window, the first journal ever devoted to decorating store windows, and in the same year as The Wonderful Wizard of Ozhe published The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors, the first book on the subject.The journal Social Education suggested using The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to help secondary school students understand the issues behind Populism, and I myself proposed the Littlefield thesis as a possible lecture topic in an instructor's manual for a popular college-level textbook.
HENRY M. LITTLEFIELD Mount Vernon High School, N. Y. The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism ON THE DESERTS OF NORTH AFRICA IN TWO TOUGH AUSTRALIAN BRIGADES went to battle singing, Have you heard of the wonderful wizard, The wonderful Wizard of Oz, And he is a wonderful wizard, If ever a wizard there was.
Specifically, Littlefield argued that the story of The Wizard of Oz was an elaborate metaphor for the Populist movement (a rising political force in the s) and a critique of the complicated national debates over monetary policy.
What made Littlefield's claim bold was its departure from common wisdom. The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism Author(s): Henry M.
Littlefield Source: American Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring, ), pp. . The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism Author(s): Henry M. Littlefield Source: American Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring, ), pp.
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Not only is this year is the 75th anniversary of the release of the MGM classic film The Wizard of Oz (), but also the 50th anniversary of Henry Littlefield’s article suggesting that The Wizard of Oz was a “Parable on Populism,” a rural political movement in the lateth century.
in the Spring, , issue of American Quarterly, Littlefield, a.